Irving Azoff, chairman of Live Nation Entertainment Inc. (LYV:US), resigned from the world’s biggest concert promoter three years after helping forge its merger with Ticketmaster.
Azoff, manager of acts including The Eagles and Christina Aguilera, is leaving immediately, the Beverly Hills, California- based company said yesterday in a statement. Billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp., the company’s largest investor, bought 1.7 million of Azoff’s shares.
Azoff, founder of Front Line Management, became chairman of Live Nation in February 2011, when the concert promoter bought the rest of his artist-management business for $116.2 million. He was chief executive officer of Ticketmaster, which was acquired by Live Nation in January 2010.
“My job here is done,” Azoff, 65, said in the statement. “I’m looking forward to returning to the entrepreneurial world and continuing to work with all my friends and colleagues at Live Nation.”
Live Nation plans to name a new chairman before the next board meeting, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The person requested anonymity because the deliberations are private.
In an interview, Azoff said his exit from Live Nation isn’t a retirement. He will join the board of Starz LLC when the pay- TV channel is split off from Liberty Media in coming weeks. He also remains on the boards of Clear Channel Communications Inc., the largest radio station operator, and IMG Worldwide Inc., a talent agency with fashion, media and sports clients.
Live Nation said in a regulatory filing (LYV:US) that Azoff’s non- competition agreement allows him to manage certain artists. Azoff said he sees an opportunity to build a new management company representing clients in music, sports, fashion and other areas.
“The part of my day I loved the most was talking with my clients,” Azoff said.
Azoff said he chafed at the burden of running a public company, citing dealings with regulators, investor groups and attorneys.
“Hey lawyers, try to shut me up now,” Azoff wrote yesterday on Twitter, his first post since September.
Front Line, part of Live Nation’s Artist Nation unit, employs 90 managers who represent about 250 artists, according to regulatory filings. In the nine months ended Sept. 30, Artist Nation had sales of $298.6 million, or about 6.8 percent of Live Nation’s $4.38 billion in revenue.
Azoff owned about 3 million Live Nation shares as of Dec. 21, according to data compiled (LYV:US) by Bloomberg. Liberty Media’s stake will rise to 26.4 percent with the purchase, according to the statement.
As part of his separation, Azoff receives a $3.5 million bonus and $8.24 million in payment of a loan, according to the filing. The accord accelerates the vesting of 1.8 million restricted shares and 664,450 stock options, and provides for the delivery of 196,007 additional shares.
“From a tax perspective, it made a lot of sense to get this done before the new year,” Azoff said.
Live Nation rose (LYV:US) 3.7 percent to $9.31 yesterday in New York. The stock gained 12 percent in 2012. Shares of Englewood, Colorado-based Liberty Media advanced 1.7 percent to $116.01 and tacked on 49 percent for the year.
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